The easiest and laziest way to sum up Beholder is with the following equation, Fallout Shelter x Papers Please = Beholder. There are elements of building management coupled with player choices affecting the lives of people living in the repressive Soviet Union inspired country. The player takes on the role of Carl, the newly appointed building manager, responsible for surveillance of the tenants and reporting any misdeeds to the government.
In order to catch tenants behaving badly the player can set up cameras as well as enter and search apartments
Congratulations on your promotion
Beholder opens with the former building manager being assaulted by the police force before getting hauled away in front of Carl and his family. A voice-over informs you that you now have no need of sleep due to the experimental drugs that they have been injected with. The player then gets comprehensive tutorial where the basics of Beholder are laid out. In order to catch tenants behaving badly, the player can set up cameras as well as enter and search apartments while the tenants are away.
Your choices matter, but actually they do this time.
This reviewer found a surprising amount of depth here, in terms of player choice. While playing you can choose to ruthlessly pursue and observe every tenant or work with the tenants in setting up a black market so everyone might profit. Carl’s also has a family that they must keep happy and content in the new living quarters. There is also a constant stream of new government directives which outlaw various things like apples, or the use of foreign currency, increasing the value of these items on the black market.
While playing you can choose to ruthlessly pursue and observe every tenant
As the days’ tick by in Beholder the player will receive missions from the government ministry. These are mostly missions tasking you with asking around about a certain tenant and setting up surveillance to find out what nefarious misdeeds that tenant is engaging in. The tenants of the buildings will also let you know about different items that they need as well as offering opinions on who among them may be up to no good. The Carl I played was open to partaking in a few black market deals and also completely fine informing on tenants if the deals went south, or if tenants were a little rude to me in the dining area, my Carl was a real scumbag.
The visual style of the game is charmingly bleak and mostly functional
Looks grim, but in a good way
The visual style of the game is charmingly bleak and mostly functional however some of the characters can be difficult to differentiate between at a distance, as they are completely black. Some of them wear glasses or a tie, but that can be difficult to pick out when you are trying to break into a room and plant cameras when you know the tenants may be back any minute. Maybe this decision was made to add tension to the game, or maybe the character design is an artistic attempt to represent the dehumanising effects of authoritarian governments on people… I’m not sure that I’d believe that though.
The gameplay here is straightforward, Carl can walk around the apartment building, zoom in and out to keep an eye on the tenants in each of their rooms, through apartment searches and taking pictures on the hidden camera Carl can build up reports on the tenants which he can then send onto the government. When the tenant is removed by the police Carl can then access a box of their belongings as well as choose the next person who moves in. If funds are low perhaps the shadier looking tenants will be chosen with a fully camera-ed up apartment lying in wait for them. The only issue that bears mention is the camera controls, they are far too sensitive, as well as being a bit too locked onto Carl and that was the cause for some frustration.
Beholder creates an interesting world and fills this world with weighty, morally-grey choices, that actually matter. The feeling of actually having an influence on how events transpire is present here, a nice change from games that promise choice and deliver nothing of the sort. Beholder is a game that becomes more and more engrossing the more time spent with it, a great idea executed extremely well.
Formats: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Developer: Warm Lamp Games
Release Date: 9th November 2016
Rating: PEGI 12